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Monday, April 30, 2012

Buying Local and the 3/50 project

Have you heard of the 3/50 project?  The idea is to encourage your friends and family to spend at least $50 in your local economy every month. If half the employed population accepted this challenge, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue. When you buy local, much of your purchase stays in the local economy through taxes, expenditures and payroll. 

Of course, I'm not one to promote consumerism without purpose, but hey, go to the Farmer's Market, buy some handmade lotion or a craft for a friend,  or head to one of my favorite places in the twin cities, Piccadilly Prairie (salvaged treasures with a modern flair). 

Drew and I did our part for the local economy this weekend by attending the Saint Paul Art Crawl; the art crawl really reminded me of the importance of supporting local businesses and artists. The atmosphere of the crawl is so warm and energetic. There is an almost tangible feeling of inter-connectedness as you wind your way from artist loft to artist loft, chatting with the artists and listening to musicians. We fell in love with a piece painted by the same artist that painted the guitar piece Drew purchased before we met. (I included a picture of the guitar painting where it hangs above our record player). 

When Drew went to pick up the piece the artist had signed the piece and wrote "blessed be your journey together". I hope we grow old with this piece of art! I included some pictures of the final results of the bedroom makeover project! It's amazing what a little paint, some rearranging and some new throw pillows can do!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In honor of Earth Day 2012

If you have time, listen to this episode of Radiolab on NPR. If you don’t have time, I’ll summarize the story now. The Kirtland Warbler has been listed as an endangered species since 1973, and has faced extinction in the past decade. The bird was threatened for two reasons. First, an invasive species known as a cow-bird entered the region. Cowbirds sneak an egg into the nests of other birds when the mother is away. In order to hide the egg, the cowbirds kill one of the warbler eggs.  The cowbird often watches the nest and if the cowbird egg is removed from the nest, the cowbird will seek revenge by killing all the other eggs in the nest. To add insult to injury, the cowbird will hatch a day before the other eggs, so it will be the loudest and strongest of the hatchlings, consuming a larger share of the food than the other baby birds. This often leads to the death of another warbler hatchling.

To combat this problem, the National Forest Service has killed and trapped thousands of cowbirds, but the warbler population did not rebound. This is how the second problem was discovered; the warbler needs young saplings in order to thrive. As a result of development, many regions lack saplings and wildlife habitat is comprised of older trees. The National Forest Service then began burning forests in order to create habitat for the birds.

Tragically, the National Forest Service lost control of one such fire on a windy day and a young firefighter was lost in the flames. This young firefighter and 'birder' had taken a paycut specifically to come work in the area to protect the Kirtland Warbler. As a result of this tragic fire, the warbler population has rebounded and continues to grow.

This story made me ponder whether I would sacrifice my own life to save a species. The question is easy when you think of animals that evoke nostalgic memories of zoo animals and polar bears on Coca-Cola commercials. So maybe you would be willing to sacrifice your own life to protect the lives of panda bears, but would you be willing to die to save a rare species of lizards? Or to take it one step further, to save a microorganism?

Despite your answer to the questions above, I’d like to put this argument into a more relevant context. If you hesitated for even a fraction of a second to ponder whether you would sacrifice your life to promote the balance of nature, then you probably recognize the importance of preserving the environment. The most poignant component of this argument is that if it were as simple as self-sacrifice, hundreds of thousands of individuals would be willing to give their life to preserve a species. Unfortunately, preserving the intricate balance of nature requires the hard work, sacrifice and determination of hundreds of millions of individuals accompanied by sweeping changes around the world.

Of course you can, and in fact you should, reduce, reuse and recycle. You can use energy efficient appliances and replace your lightbulbs with eco-friendly alternatives. You can buy locally grown, organic products and you can carpool or walk to reduce your carbon footprint. You can vote for local officials that support the preservation of the environment. You can encourage your friends and neighbors to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Again, I think that you can and you should do the things listed above, and much, much more.

However, the only way to achieve the necessary level of change required is through political will.

It is difficult to prioritize your vote in times of budget deficits and recessions, but if you truly value the environment you will promote your beliefs  with your dollars, your actions, your voice and your vote. Voting for local, state, and federal officials that prioritize the environment above special interests is one important way we can affect change. 

Forget New Year's Resolutions... what is your Earth Day Resolution? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's in a bridesmaid?

Cards purchased on etsy from Renee

 A bridesmaid is....
      Someone you can dress up with,

Throw theme parties with (I think being able to wear a costume is a pre-requisite for being my friend... crazy hat party, gin and jeans, Era's Party, Lady Gaga party, Silver and Gold Party, 80s prom),
Call after months of busy schedules and gush for hours as if no time had passed at all.
Someone who reads the same books as you!

Someone who always sees the good in you, even when it is hard to see the good in yourself.

Someone you grew up with...
    or someone you know you will grow old with.

Someone who will listen to you go on and on, even when you forget to ask about their life.

Someone you have sung at the top of your lungs with! (Queen, Michael Buble, Oldies, Christina Tabuchi, Jason Mraz, Disney, MJ)

The girls you formed clubs with in elementary school...
 (You can only get in if you believe in make-believe,
 the tooth fairy, 
leprechauns and you cannot drink "boose").

Someone that has spent time milking cows, training calves, picking rocks, riding horses, riding four-wheelers, fishing in the creek, mud-sliding, floating down Spencer's creek, building forts, bailing hay, making hay forts and playing at  the farm.
Someone you've had sleepovers with... both as kids and adults!

Someone you can be your wacky self with!

Someone you can really boogie down and dance with!

I am SO blessed to have the love of my friends, cousins and sisters. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by my good fortune in friendships. I love my bridesmaids and my ushers, thank you for being part of my special day! xoxo

A friend is someone who thinks you are a good egg even though they know you are slightly cracked!
~Bernard Meltzer

I don't measure my worth by the quantity or quality of my possessions, but rather by the quantity of my experiences and the quality of my friendships...
 and guess what? I'm in the 1%!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why we need the Affordable Care Act

In one of my graduate level econ courses today we discussed the comparison made by Supreme Court Justice Scalia (and others) that has been in the news lately. Judge Scalia asked The Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, why health insurance is different than broccoli. After all, they are both good for you and markets exist for both.

This is where our professor jumped in.  Our professors insight was very clear and concise, and frankly, if The Solicitor General had been able to come up with something even remotely close to this argument, it would have been difficult to contradict.

The government steps in where market failures exist. For example, if we had to pay for our own roads, we'd have beautiful roads in wealthy areas and no roads anywhere else. Economists agree, government is needed where market failures exist. Economists also agree that there are many things the government does that make no economic sense at all (sugar beet subsidies for example). In the market for health insurance, free markets simply don't work.

In the market for health insurance, there is an unequal equilibrium. On one end, you have super healthy individuals willing to accept an extremely high deductible because they don't think they'll need insurance. On the other end of the spectrum, families, the elderly and those with health needs are willing to pay more money for more coverage. You can see the problem, those who need insurance are willing to pay more for insurance. Therefore, they are at a disadvantage. The only way to provide healthcare for everyone is by pooling risk.

This is why healthcare is often provided through employers. Employers can provide insurance to a pooled group of employees. Do the young subsidize their older coworkers? Yes, and that's why it works. And someday, the young will need additional coverage as well.

Problem: not everyone has health insurance through an employer. So all those that are uncovered (somewhere around 50 million depending on which figure you use), are subject to the prices offered by the insurer. Alone, all these uncovered individuals are subject to very high insurance costs (again, because those that need health insurance are more likely to seek insurance, so insurance companies assume they are willing to pay higher premiums). So, by simply pooling these people (like  an employer only on a very large scale) you can pool the risk and correct the market failure. In basic micro, this is known as the problem of adverse selection. This is something covered in every Micro 101 course.

While I have your attention, this new Presidential Barbie really irks me. It's great that she can stand on her own for the first time, unfortunately she's wearing platforms instead of flats, or even a reasonable heel. And that ruffled suit she has on?? There is a difference between fashionable and business professional. (Sure, business professional can be fashionable, but no professional woman would wear that suit.) Despite her "Legally Blonde" look, I think Barbie may be a more serious candidate than many of the Republican hopefuls have been.

Til next time, peace, love and broccoli.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Venue

So... I probably should have gone to see the venue before I booked it, but I didn't! C'est la vie right? Oh well, it is just as beautiful in person as it is in professional photos. I am including my very unprofessional photos here for your enjoyment. :-p
Mom hanging out by the main entrance to the reception barn. 

The reception hall.

This is where we will be married in the event of rain. This is the space above the reception area.

Girls don't wear high heels, seriously. Go for a wedge! 
Cocktail area

Where we will be married! 
It's a big barn! 

In the "bridle room" clever eh?